Oh the beloved foam roller- you love it or hate it (maybe both). Foam rolling has become a staple in my personal practice, public classes and private sessions. It’s a fantastic tool to facilitate healing, increase flexibility and range of motion, decrease pain, and more. But before I dive into the benefits, let’s cover some basic info about myofascial tissue.
Myofascial tissue is thin, strong, fibrous connective tissue that extends throughout your body to provide support and protection to your muscles, bones, organs, nerve fibers, and blood vessels. It’s made up of collagen and elastin that are arranged in a web-like structure. You can think of myofascial tissue as being similar to a mesh bag that contains your groceries. It is pliable, and can expand and contract as the contents of the bag change. It envelops your body like a wetsuit, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. It’s designed to move and stretch with your body, but certain things can cause it to thicken and tighten. This thickening can be the cause of pain, stiffness, injury, poor posture, and has even been said to increase the appearance of cellulite. Using self massage with a foam roller (and tennis or lacrosse ball) is a fantastic way to get unstuck and find relief. Here are some of the benefits you could expect.
Help You Relax
Studies have found a psychological benefit of foam rolling as well, with reported feelings of relaxation, tension and stress relief, and an improvement in overall mood, because rolling signals the parasympathetic nervous system to relax.Many athletes report that ending an exercise session with a gentle, full-body foam rolling routine simulates a massage and can increase feelings of overall well-being and workout satisfaction.
Increases Range of Motion
Foam rolling before a workout can reduce stiffness and help your body feel more limber. As mentioned, foam rolling signals the parasympathetic nervous system to relax the muscles and tendons you are rolling. As these tissues relax, the fibers move from a contracted state to an elongated state. This can increase the range of motion around the joint the muscles control, improving mobility and optimizing motion.
Foam rolling increases blood flow to the tissues you work with the foam roller. This can be especially beneficial for fascial, tendons, and ligaments, which have relatively little blood flow under normal circumstances. Because blood carries oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients muscles and connective tissues need to contract and repair, increasing blood flow enhances the delivery of vital nutrients and can maximize function and recovery.
If you have an injury or are sore after a workout, foam rolling can help encourage the removal of inflammatory waste products, flushing these tissues with fresh nutrients and circulating out toxins.
Warm Up Muscles
The friction generated by rolling over your tissues creates heat that warms up muscles, tendons, fascia, and other connective tissues. Warm tissues are more pliable and less likely to get injured, so adding foam rolling to your pre-workout routine can be an important step in mitigating the risk of injury, especially if you’ve been sedentary for a few hours prior to your workout.
Reduce Muscle Soreness
Research has found that foam rolling after a hard workout can decrease the intensity of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), the achy pain that can creep up 24-48 hours after intense exercise. Foam rolling helps prevent muscle adhesions and enhances the circulation of oxygenated blood to depleted muscles after exercise. In this way, foam rolling can reduce inflammation and soreness in and around muscles and joints.
If you have pain due to stiffness, foam rolling can provide the stimulus your muscles need to relax, effectively easing pain. Research has demonstrated an improvement in reported back pain severity as well as chronic widespread pain for fibromyalgia sufferers with regular foam rolling.
Join me for Foam Rolling Basics, a introduction to foam rolling on Sat, Oct 15 and/or Sat, Nov 12, 2022.